By Jennifer McGraw

EL DORADO COUNTY (CBS13) – Thanks to a few deputies, a veteran and hundreds of homeless throughout the county are getting some much-needed help.

“I don’t plan on being here forever,” but unfortunately for the past two years, Michael Wayland has been homeless.

Living in the woods he said has its extreme challenges.

“It’s not easy doing this by any stretch of the imagination,” he said while showing his makeshift shelter built in the woods with logs and tarps.

Being homeless isn’t a lifestyle for Wayland, but as a former U.S. Marine, it’s survival.

“It’s a means to get by, not a means to live by,” he said.

But then came help in a most unusual way.

“When I met the two officers I was a little hesitant at first because it sounded a little too good to be true,” he said.

Deputies Chris Macres and Blake Braadfladt are members of the Homeless Outreach Team formed to help more than 600 homeless throughout the county.

“It is a large number, and there are quite a few people in our community with a severe case of homelessness,” said Macres.

He added that it’s hard getting many of the homeless from point A to point B, from the woods to a home, but then again sometimes it just the right car ride away.

“They need that initial push and sometimes assistance from us to get to that next level, which is, in my opinion, the hardest part of this program,” Macres said after taking Wayland to the V.A. to get some help.

In Wayland’s case, he has a side job, but the first step to getting him housing was just basic paperwork.

“Getting my identification back and my license back would not, it would not have happened, but with their help, it will,” Wayland said.

Including aid, he is eligible for after serving six years in the Marine Corp.

“He was very motivated from the get-go, so our willingness to pursue him and to find him is great,” Macres said.

Their end goal isn’t to move them along, but to help them along the way.

“If we can pick out some in between that will actually be able to break the cycle of homelessness, that’s the end goal of this program,” he said.

A helping hand Wayland never expected but is eternally grateful.

“It really is, it really is an uplifting thing,” said Wayland.

Deputies have been working with Wayland for a little over a month taking him to local appointments and eventually want to try and get him housing.

Another major concern is public safety from illegal camping that has caused devastating fires. But, so far this year there haven’t been any.


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